Background The impact on palliative care nurses of working in an environment that reminds them of their personal experience of bereavement may have a detrimental effect on their psychological wellbeing (Marcella-Brienza & Mennillo, 2015). The emotional labour of nursing can be stressful, but when the internal reality of grief is at odds with the external reality of the professional, nurses are at risk of burnout (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002). Little is understood about the impact a personal bereavement has on palliative care nurses. Four hospices joined together to explore the experience of their bereaved nurses.
Aim To explore the experience of a personal bereavement for nurses working in a palliative care setting through the death of a significant relative or friend.
Outcome Make recommendations for ways hospices support nurses working in palliative care before and after the death of a significant relative or friend.
Methods Using a grounded theory approach, 13 nurses were interviewed using a semi-structured approach.
Results Initial findings suggest that if support and time to grieve is not given at the time of the death, nurses may experience a period of disintegration at a later date. Those experiencing a sudden bereavement may have different needs to those experiencing an anticipated bereavement. Grief and bereavement is a continuum experienced over a prolonged time. Anniversaries, times of stress or resonance with patient diagnosis or family reaction can trigger an emotional response challenging nurses’ ability to integrate bereavement’ into their lives and work. Separating the personal from the professional can take time.
Conclusion Nurses grieve in different ways and managers and employers need to allow flexibility and time for each person to grieve recognising that bereavement continues a long way past the statutory compassionate leave allowance. Recommendations will be shared with Hospice UK to consider a national initiative.
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